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Implementing a Covid-19 strategy: FAQs from NZ businesses

Here are some questions the Trade Me Jobs team have heard from NZ business owners.

Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, the Trade Me Jobs team has been in constant communication with businesses across the country as they’ve tried to develop strategies for navigating this unprecedented situation.

Here are some of the most common questions we’ve heard, and some advice we hope might be of use to you.

FAQs from the NZ business community

1. How do I apply for the government wage subsidy?

On top of the tax relief package, there are two government-provided wage payments available to New Zealand employers impacted by Covid-19:

  • The COVID-19 Wage Subsidy: this is for businesses who might need to layoff staff or reduce their hours to help manage cash flows.

  • The COVID-19 Essential Workers Leave Support: this is available to businesses designated as ‘essential’ to allow them to pay employees who:

    • Can't come into work because Ministry of Health guidelines recommend they stay at home, and
    • Can't work from home.

If you’re unsure which you might be eligible for, there’s a full explainer on the rules for applications on this page of the Work and Income Department website.

The majority of businesses will be applying for the Covid-19 Wage Subsidy, and the application form for this can be found here. The government has recognised that this form won’t be practical for larger employers, as you have to apply on behalf of individual employees, so they’ve created specific guidance for bigger organisations on how to apply using CSV files instead.

If you’re applying for The COVID-19 Essential Workers Leave Support, the checklist and application form can be found here.

The Work and Income department website has lots of useful information for businesses.

2. How long does it take the wage subsidy to come through?

According to the Work and Income website, it can take a few days for the payment to come through.

Unsurprisingly, from our conversations with businesses, it’s often taking a bit longer to receive payments now compared to immediately after the scheme was announced. This is likely due to the number of organisations that have since applied.

Our advice here is that, if you meet the criteria, apply for your subsidy ASAP. This is a great resource to help you manage your cash flow, which should be the priority for all businesses.

3. What are other businesses doing at this time?

Communication between businesses is crucial for comparing experiences and tactics for negotiating the challenges presented by Covid-19.

Manaaki.io is a great resource for small businesses in NZ, and operates as a forum allowing business leaders to ask questions and provide advice to each other across many different sectors.

At Trade Me Jobs, we’ve started posting weekly news bulletins in the ‘Latest News’ section of our Advertising Advice page. Here, we’ve been sharing insights on the most recent trends in listings and applications seen on site, to help organisations plan.

4. What are the best ways to prepare for the backend of the Covid-19 lockdown and be in a good position to grow?

Jeremy Wade, Head of Trade Me Jobs, has some advice for NZ businesses as they try to best position themselves for the coming months:

“Keep across the Government guidelines – what will Level 3 look like? Level 2? Develop a plan for each of these, and also how you will react if we move back up the levels. Then communicate this strategy with your people. When do you expert them to be at work? How will you ensure their safety in the workplace?

Trade Me's Head of Jobs, Jeremy Wade, urges business to have plans for all Alert Levels, and communicate them well.

You may also be in the unfortunate position of needing to downsize your business. This is tricky, even in normal recessions, where there are advance indicators of a downturn. It’s even harder during a black swan event like Covid-19. Not only could the crisis not be foreseen, but there’s the added complexity that it's hard to know how and when the economy will recover, because so much is predicated on what rules will be in place and for how long.

This means many businesses will find it difficult to forecast cash inflows and the size they need their business to be. So you’re probably best to play it conservatively. Lastly, if you’re looking to restructure make sure you do it by the book. While these are exceptional times, your obligations to ensure a fair process with adequate consultation still remain.“

5. Should I be hiring during the Covid-19 outbreak?

“The more businesses that can hire through the next year, the faster we’ll come out of recession – as it increases the circulation of money. However, recruiting is a big commitment, and risky when so much is uncertain.

Traditionally, when there’s uncertainty, hiring people as fixed-term or as contractors is very popular. This could be a great way of you derisking your situation. Again, you just need to ensure that you’re following employment law – and there’s great governmental advice to help you do this.”